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    Metro week in review

    By Times staff writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published September 22, 2002


    Scallop hunt pepped up local tourism

    CRYSTAL RIVER -- The first scallop season in eight years raked in a lot of clams for local businesses.

    Scallops were plentiful and decent in size, and the crowds were heavy each weekend, giving a boost to the North Suncoast tourist economy and making it likely state officials will allow the popular activity to continue.

    "It's so sad it's over," said Gail Oakes, managing partner of Homosassa Riverside Resort. "We felt it immediately in our boat rentals, in our room rentals, in our restaurant."

    According to aerial surveys, there were between 400 and 800 boats each weekend at each of two popular sites outside Homosassa.

    Citrus County officials said the scallop season contributed to a record amount of tourist tax collected for the month of July: $24,669. That's $5,000 more tourist tax than last July, and translates to $250,000 of additional business.

    The scallop population in Citrus County began to decline in the late 1980s, following a trend that worked north as coastal runoff affected water quality and damaged sea grass habitats.

    A massive effort to stock area waters with hatchery-born scallops is credited with the comeback.

    Local agencies explore volunteer medical corps

    OLDSMAR -- During his State of the Union speech in January, President Bush urged Americans to volunteer their time to protect their country and to help out during major emergencies such as a terrorist attack.

    Now the Oldsmar Fire Rescue and the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, which is based in Largo, want to know if anyone is willing to answer that call.

    Both Hospice and the city are among the agencies that have applied for a federal grant to create a community-based medical reserve corps. The volunteer group would be made up of current or retired doctors, nurses and health professionals, and anyone interested in helping treat injured people during a catastrophe.

    Volunteers would be trained to be first responders, a level requiring about 40 hours of training, fire officials said. In comparison, first-aid classes can be taught in four to eight hours.

    "Building that volunteer resource can be an asset for all hazards, not just for terrorism," said Gary Vickers, senior coordinator with the Pinellas department of emergency management. "It's certainly a resource that once we know it's there, we can try to make the best utilization of it."

    Crystal River loses another city manager

    CRYSTAL RIVER -- In what is becoming a nearly annual routine, Crystal River will search for a new city manager after Phil Lilly, citing an increasingly strained relationship with the City Council, submitted his resignation.

    Lilly's last day with the city is Oct. 11, and he will begin his new job, based at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, later that month. He said he would help oversee federal security at airports.

    Given the history of turnover in the job -- Lilly is the city's eighth manager since 1990 -- discussion at a special meeting last week noted that the council might have to provide a generous financial package to attract a top-notch candidate.

    The City Council decided against employing a search firm to help find candidates. Instead, it will ask a group of retired city managers to assist in the search.

    Enrollment will increase for Catholic high school

    PORT RICHEY -- Armed with new traffic surveys that suggest the planned Bishop McLaughlin High School wouldn't jam area roads as previously thought, Pasco County agreed to lift the enrollment cap on the Catholic school from 425 to 650 students.

    Officials with the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg cheered the news, even though Bishop Robert Lynch had sought permission for 800 students to handle the area's growing Catholic population.

    The $22-million campus will serve Pasco, Hernando, Citrus and Hillsborough counties and is scheduled to open in 2003.

    Bishop McLaughlin is the first high school the diocese has built since Clearwater Central Catholic opened in the early 1960s. Already partly built on 90 acres in rural Shady Hills, the school will start by teaching ninth- and 10th-graders only in August.

    Without raises, teachers vow not to go the extra yard

    BROOKSVILLE -- With their contract still in dispute, many Hernando County schoolteachers are planning to do only the work they are paid to do.

    Union representatives from each school met late Tuesday and decided to recommend that teachers stop coming in early, staying after hours, working through lunch and taking papers home to grade.

    The teachers have asked for more money for 2002-03 than the 5.1 percent raise on average that the board has offered them. They also have complained that the board at the same time has approved new jobs and found extra money for nonteaching staff.

    "It's not going to hurt the kids," teachers union president Cynthia Moore said. "If I work to the rule, that's what I'm paid for, 73/4 hours. I'm not paid to do my three, four, five hours of work at home. I don't have to be here until 7:45 a.m. People need to see that we give up a lot of our time."

    But when teachers did the same thing seven years ago, school dances, carnivals and festivals fell by the wayside. Veteran School Board member Jim Malcolm recalled that parents, who had supported the teachers to that point in their negotiations with the board, were not very accepting.

    In short . . .

    -- TAMPA -- The battle over public access television in Hillsborough County appeared headed to court after commissioners Thursday night affirmed an earlier decision to shut down the station Oct. 1. Supporters of Speak Up Tampa Bay, the nonprofit group that runs the county's public access station, pleaded for a free public forum on television. But critics called for pulling funds after it aired The Happy Show, which showed graphic nudity.

    -- DADE CITY -- Pasco County commissioners heard an unexpected, and unprecedented, request from Public Defender Bob Dillinger on Tuesday to kick in more money for his department, which provides attorneys for indigent criminal suspects at state expense. Dillinger said that although he never has asked Pasco to pay salaries, it's common elsewhere. Dillinger said his staffers are so overburdened he will ask the court to require private attorneys be substituted, at a cost to Pasco County of $864,000 per year, while two new misdemeanor lawyers and a felony lawyer would only cost $158,000 a year.

    -- TAMPA -- A $3.75 surcharge on tickets to concerts, hockey games and other events at the St. Pete Times Forum is unlikely to happen soon. Hillsborough County commissioners said they need more information on the Forum's financial picture before quintupling the surcharge.

    -- Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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